Ideology and Communist Utopia
July 12, 2006

RE: Andrew Sullivan Wants Another War - by Randal Mark.

Randal Mark's excellent article offers wise, sane commentary on the situation with N. Korea. However, there is a point with which I disagree. Mark writes:

Sullivan, of course, thought it was a great idea to invade Iraq. He subsequently appeared to have been somewhat chastened by the bloodbath that has resulted from that particular policy, but in fact his regret was merely the tactical apology of the true ideologue. Like Western communist apologists for the murderous crimes of Soviet Russia and Maoist China, his unshakable ideology (Western liberal democracy) leaves no room in his mind for any other conclusion than that it just wasn't done right last time, whereas next time it will be.

. . .

The Western communists were wrong, though. It wasn't just particular implementations that failed in the case of communism. The pesky human factors that made it fail weren't just particular bad circumstances for the particular attempts to create communist societies. They were problems inherent in the ideology, and something like them will bring down every attempt to establish a communist utopia.

Now, actually trying to establish a communist utopia isn't on my big list of things to do, but I am interested in some of the theoretical issues involved. Mark presumes that there is only one "ideology" (Marxism-Lenninism) that could possibly hope to achieve a communist utopia. Let me offer a simple, contrary idea: If a few dozen people, all reasonably healthy, sane and intelligent**, really wanted to construct and live in a small-scale communistic community, they might have half a chance. They might be able to set something up that would grow and last for more than just a few generations. This would, by the way, be completely at odds with Marxist and Lenninist doctrines.

There is a possible analogy here to the recent history of mathematics. In 1970, some people might have said, "We don't think the Four Color Map Theorem or Fermat's Last Theorem will ever be proven." Well, they have been proven! It would take a long time for me to learn enough to check the Four Color proof and then a lot more time to do the checking. I am probably not capable of learning the material necessary to understand the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. But I've read bits here and there from sources I trust and I'm convinced that the proofs are valid.

The point is this: Like those proofs, creating a (small scale) "communist utopia" might be merely very difficult, but not impossible. I don't think that communism could ever be a valid basis for a mass society. But I do think that any decent mass society would allow for the existence of alternative sub-societies. I discuss issues related to the construction of sub-societies in my essay Manifesto for the Peoples of the Third Millennium.


** And young! I don't mean "young at heart," either, I mean physically young, as in late teens or twenties or early thirties, with maybe a few slightly older people for guidance. Creating an alternative society is a seriously time-intensive undertaking! I would be long dead before I had a chance of getting anything to work!

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